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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shining Sword of entertaining, elegant and precise prose!
Wow, can this girl write. 'Spellbound' would be the word that springs to mind: for Prof. Sword has a beautiful turn of phrase, that I accept I will aspire to all my life, but will be unlikely to ever attain.
The book impresses on so many levels. Firstly: it's a beautiful book, nicely bound, lovely graphics on the cover, precisely printed with amazing, effortless...
Published on 22 Aug 2012 by Duncurin

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Sword Instructs the Pen
This book is aimed at professional academics who want to write more readable, engaging articles, not at students. If you're particularly interested, there's a site associated with the book where you can test a sample (100-1,000 words) of your writing: [...] When I tried some of mine, I was told it was 'heart attack territory'. This gave me a slight shock but, according to...
Published 24 months ago by Ben Saunders


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shining Sword of entertaining, elegant and precise prose!, 22 Aug 2012
By 
Duncurin (Manchester) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
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Wow, can this girl write. 'Spellbound' would be the word that springs to mind: for Prof. Sword has a beautiful turn of phrase, that I accept I will aspire to all my life, but will be unlikely to ever attain.
The book impresses on so many levels. Firstly: it's a beautiful book, nicely bound, lovely graphics on the cover, precisely printed with amazing, effortless punctuation and precise placing of each word. Secondly: though one could argue that it's a dry subject, Prof Sword handles it beautifully, entertainingly and with alacrity. Thirdly: though it is American spelling throughout: the text is crafted with clear and concise prose that is a delight to read.
What struck me on watching one of the latest Hollywood blockbusters last weekend, was just how quickly the American language is diverging from classical English: for it no longer comes down to the spelling of color or colour, but also the very basis on which our sentences rest. The film was intriguing in the sense that it had some wonderful dialogue on one hand, and on the other, whole strings of words and sentences that were unintelligible! This is a shame: for surely it must be the first duty of any author or writer to communicate with his/her audience. ( I am certain that many Americans would have the same view of some English writers).

The NHS is presently going through a drive whereby patients can request copies of clinic letters. This, at first glance is a good thing. My problem, which the author highlights unequivocally, is that often clever, learned people hide behind impenetrable jargon and see no need to explain it to their audience - in this instance my patients! Thus; I had a little old lady who had been to a specialist clinic, and only on the day of her operation did she learn that a hip revision meant that the old hip would be removed and a new one inserted ( she refused ). Whether we know what revision means or not; my point is that she should not have been allowed to leave any of those three (!) clinics without knowing precisely what was being offered, in words she could understand. Similarly, yesterday, a patient who brought her clinic letter and asked me to explain what "serious compromise of systolic function" meant. Of course, I am used to such jargon and was able to clarify, but why was she allowed to leave that clinic without someone telling her that she has a serious, life-threatening problem with her heart?

The most tantalising thing about this book is the gift of hope that it offers: for it reinforces my belief that there are a few people out there who write reports, articles, papers or books for the attention of others and who strive word-by-word, line-by-line to be better at this practise tomorrow, than they are today: and the fact that Helen Sword is way ahead of many of us should not discourage us from making the attempt because she has shown us what amazing results can be achieved. With many thanks.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Academics: read this book!, 20 July 2012
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This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
I bought this as a resource for an undergraduate essay writing class that I teach, but it's turned out to be very useful in my own writing. Sword identifies a number of key problems with much academic writing - poor structure, too many abstract nouns, horrible titles, unnecessary use of jargon, etc. - that I was embarrassed to identify in my own written work. Each chapter ends with suggestions for improving your own writing - some of which I've already put to the test, and found incredibly helpful. My only complaint - and it's a relatively minor one - is that some chapters are a bit heavy on quantitative data. It's great to know that Sword has done her homework, but a bit tedious to have to read about it in so much detail! Apart from that - highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, this should be required reading for all writers, not just academics., 17 Sep 2012
By 
R. F. Stevens "richard23491" (Ickenham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
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This is a textbook on how to write. But what an entertaining textbook! And it is not just for Academics; the rest of us can also benefit. Yes, it has many wordy examples of what is bad, and others of what is good, but knitting it all together is Helen Sword's light and engaging narrative.

We might skip the less interesting examples, and we don't often need to follow any of the copious references neatly linked from the text, and the Things To Try are analogous to the 'exercises' we used to find at the end of each chapter in the Maths book, except, delightfully, many of these TTT are interesting and fun.

Her opening paragraph in Chapter One mentions my heroes Strunk and White and immediately I warmed to her. Reading on, so many times in the book she picks up on things I have also fought against when preparing technical documents; she is always hammering her points about simplicity, use of good English, avoiding convoluted hanging clauses, and cutting out jargon. She reinforces these themes with surprisingly detailed and rigorous analysis and relevant examples.

This is the first time I have actually enjoyed reading something I should class as a textbook. In several places I felt myself cheering her on. I have been working on trying to improve my writing style for several years, and had dribbled to a halt, but this gives me new ground to cover and with any luck it might take me on to a another level. To my surprise, I think I might have just become a fan!

Thank you Vine for giving me the opportunity to benefit from reading this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A diplomatic move in the war on obfuscation, 4 Mar 2013
This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
This is a guide for the willing. If you seriously want to make your thesis, dissertation, paper or journal article more readable, you'll find plenty of inspiration here.

"Elegant ideas," says Helen Sword in the preface, "deserve elegant expression." She subscribes firmly to the style-and-substance view of language: style clothes ideas.

Ms Sword may be writing diplomatically. She carefully distances herself from any hint that poor writing might be a symptom of poor thinking. Her book, she suggests, serves two types of writer: those who want to write engagingly and accessibly all the time; and "those who opt to cross that bridge only occasionally."

Academic writing, then, doesn't have to be stylish.

Ms Sword's book is welcome principally because it's based on quantitative research. Ms Sword offers us help in creating eye-catching titles, first-person anecdotes, attention-grabbing opening paragraphs and more. She offers `Things to Try' at the end of each chapter and, interspersed through the text, intriguing examples from writers she likes.

But it's the chapter on citation systems that contains the real bombshell.

Sword quotes from an article by psychologists Richard Madigan, Susan Johnson and Patricia Linton, who declare that a student following the American Psychological Association citation style "comes not only to write like a psychologist but to think like one as well."

With these words, the gaff is well and truly blown. Style-and-substance is a chimera. Thinking happens in language; the style of our expression delineates the very contours of our ideas.

And that, finally, is why this book matters so much. An intellectual who can't write or speak clearly is an intellectual who can't think clearly. And what kind of intellectual is that?

A longer version of this review appears at:
[...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful, constructive suggestions, 12 Sep 2012
This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
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Writing a book about writing is fraught with danger. If the author expresses something inelegantly or with a lack of clarity it can seriously undermine the message. Helen Sword avoids this pitfall by writing in a clear, authoritative and engaging way. If there is one key message from this book - and I think there is - it is that academics should give more consideration to how they write. Academics (particularly in my own field of law) tend to use jargon in the form of legal terminology which is not easily comprehended by the layman. This encourages the use, subconsciously, of other jargon which is unnecessary. Academics also fall into the trap of seeking to flaunt their intellectual prowess by the use of unusual words or unduly complex sentences.

This book is really an attempt to break some of the shackles of academic writing by encouraging authors to recognise that there is no "right or wrong" way to write. Think about the target readership. Try to express complex ideas as simply as possible. The use of short sentences can be a valuable technique.

As the book is aimed at an academic audience it has to be based upon a foundation of research. Academics won't take it seriously if you just write something based on 30 years experience of reading academic texts. So, Helen Sword has done the research and analysed 1,000 academic articles. She has also gone beyond her own discipline to do this and this is admirable. The task of going even further and considering good writing from high quality non-academic sources would have been an interesting addition but probably impractical. The reporting of the quantitative research data was rather heavy going, though I understand why it was included. I thought that it lessened the impact of the book but overall it is a very helpful work with many useful and constructive suggestions.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Sword Instructs the Pen, 1 Sep 2012
By 
Ben Saunders (Stirling, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
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This book is aimed at professional academics who want to write more readable, engaging articles, not at students. If you're particularly interested, there's a site associated with the book where you can test a sample (100-1,000 words) of your writing: [...] When I tried some of mine, I was told it was 'heart attack territory'. This gave me a slight shock but, according to Helen Sword, I'm not alone.

Based on a sample of one thousand recent academic articles (covering medicine, evolutionary biology, computer science, higher education, psychology, anthropology, law, philosophy, history, and literary studies), she concluded that much academic writing is formulaic, jargon-laden, and dull. This book encourages academics to break free of familiar academic tropes and to write in a way that is genuinely stylish and engaging. Chapters are devoted to (among other things) catchy titles, an introductory hook, and the importance of a story. Of course, one can't learn to write stylishly by following rules, and Sword admits as much; but she thinks we can improve our writing by thinking carefully about how we express ourselves (as opposed simply to the ideas being expressed).

There's a tension at times between Sword's recommendations (e.g. that jargon and abstract nouns are generally bad, while concrete nouns and active verbs are good) and her insistence on choice and different writing for different contexts. "I present stylish writing as a series of considered decisions: no choice is intrinsically "right" or "wrong," but each decision you make will trigger different consequences and invite different responses from readers" (p. 174). But the problem with this is that, by studying academic articles in professional journals, she's only looked at academics writing *for* their academic peers. No doubt, if she looked at 'popular' works written for the general educated reader she'd find different, hopefully more accessible and (dare I say it?) stylish writing. It's not obviously a problem if the writing academics use between themselves doesn't conform to Sword's idea of stylishness, provided that all within the discipline are fluent in it. Further, I'm not convinced that everything Sword regards as bad about academic writing is indeed bad.

Of course, I wouldn't claim that all academic writing is good. I know some authors are a joy to read, while others can be torturous, and I'd certainly prefer it if more were in the former camp. But I'm not convinced that following the advice in this book is going to revolutionise academic prose. It's not that I disagree with much of it, but a lot was rather generic. Sure, I'd like the opening paragraph to hook my reader in, but the crucial question is how I achieve that. There are some tips, but the main recommendation is simply to put more thought and consideration into your expression, and I'm not convinced that this advice justified a whole book to say.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book on producing informative, engaging text. Teaches to standout as an academic writer., 16 May 2014
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Brilliant source for anyone who wants to make their academic writing informative, as well as thrilling. Helen Sword provides useful advices on choosing a title, drafting main text, structuring paragraphs and building sentences. I especially liked the comparison across disciplines and plentiful supply of examples from a variety of fields. This book teaches to produce academic research in style, to dare push the limits of formal writing and to standout.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful and interesting, 4 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
This is a great wee book full of interesting advice and examples from real writing. I certainly hope that my papers are easier and more interesting to read as a result of reading this. Throughout the book there are lots of examples used to demonstrate what the author is talking about and that helps see how the advice given can be applied to academic writing. I'd recommend to anyone who knows how difficult it can be to read a poorly written paper.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, if only we had the time to follow this advice, 26 Dec 2012
By 
Ioannis Glinavos (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
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As an author, I always worry about my style and whether what I have to say communicates effectively to my audience. This book would be a wonderful addition to the library of anyone who writes or aspires to write. Sadly, a lot of academic writing is technical and uninspiring. See my review of the lateste title by Habermas to see what I mean. Writing well helps get our point across. Amato and Fantacci (even in translation from Italian) are a great example of how elegant prose lifts the argument. This book offers in a very well presented and eloquent manner a large number of useful tips on how to improve one's style. My only concern is that working under the pressures that we have (REF etc) we hardly have time to take the author's advice. Perhaps after 2013 we can once again write for an audience different from the REF panel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 7 Dec 2012
By 
Miss I. S. Streffen (Diss, Norfolk Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stylish Academic Writing (Hardcover)
This book was recommended to me when I was struggling to write an interdisciplinary proposal. It gives excellent advice on improving your writing - by far the most useful I have ever read - and lays out some of the problems faced by academic writers in a wide variety of disciplines. Much of the book focuses on what can often appear to be the entrenched formulas of writing within disciplines, offering useful strategies to help reinvigorate these norms. I would recommend this book to anyone who has to write academic papers, but especially to post-graduate students and early career academics.
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Stylish Academic Writing
Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword (Hardcover - 3 April 2012)
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